Senate bill calls for online Plum Book

The measure looks to require more frequent updates of the directory of political appointees.

Congress is one step closer to modernizing the longstanding practice of publishing the compendium of political appointees known as the Plum Book every four years.

Now a new bill is looking to transform the publication into an online database kept current by the Office of Personnel Management. The Periodically Listing Updates to Management (PLUM) Act of 2020, advanced by the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee on July 22, would require OPM to maintain a publicly available database with information on government officials in the executive and legislative branches in accordance with modern data standards.

The "United States Government Policy and Supporting Positions" or Plum Book, so named for its color, is published every four years after the presidential election under the oversight of HSGAC and the House Oversight Committee.

The last Plum Book, which was published in December 2016 by the Government Publishing Office, listed over 9,000 political appointee posts, senior positions and other jobs subject to direct or non-competitive hiring across the federal government.

The PLUM Act would require that the publication be easily searchable via an online database and would require agencies to upload information such as employees' names, position titles, the agencies and subcomponents in which they work and their geographic locations to the database every month.

OPM and the Presidential Personnel Office would be tasked with verifying the database’s information twice a year.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the bill’s sponsor, hailed the PLUM Act's passage as a measure to promote transparency within the U.S. government.

"The American people deserve to know who is serving at the highest levels of our government," he said in a statement. "The individuals who fill these positions are often making consequential decisions that affect the lives of millions, and it is just common sense that the public should be able to more easily find out who the President – in any administration – has appointed to make those decisions."

House Oversight Chairwoman Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) introduced a companion bill in the House in June.

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